Congress adds soldiers, removes pressure for JBER cut

The timeline for an Airborne jump starts more than a day before the mission begins. Jump packs were laid out Sunday at JBER, well-ahead of the actual mission. (Photo: Zachariah Hughes)
Jump packs at JBER. (File photo: Zachariah Hughes)

President-elect Donald Trump has called for a much bigger military, and Congress took a step in that direction today.

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The U.S. Senate has passed the annual defense authorization bill, which has now cleared both houses of Congress by veto-proof majorities.

The bottom line for the bill is $619 billion. That’s about $3 billion more than in President Obama’s budget. Service members will see their pay go up 2.1 percent. The increase might not cover the cable bill in many households, but it’s the largest annual increase in several years.

Congress is calling for 16,000 more soldiers, compared to President Obama’s request.

“The Obama administration has been cutting, cutting, cutting and we’re finally going to put some troops back,” Sen. Dan Sullivan said in a video his office made to explain it to his constituents. “This is going to be very important for Alaska. I think it’s also going relieve the pressure on the Army wanting to cut the 4-25, at JBER.”

The Army had proposed shrinking the 4-25 brigade combat team at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson by more than 2,000 soldiers.

Among the Alaska provisions, the bill requires the Defense Department to begin the planning for a strategic Arctic port. It also aims to allow Tricare beneficiaries in rural Alaska to get services from the Native health care system. Tricare is the health insurance program for active duty military, retirees and their families.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her Read more about Lizhere.

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